GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

GEOG 571 Syllabus (Spring 2021)


This syllabus is divided into several sections. It is essential that you read the entire document as well as material covered in the Orientation. Together these serve the role of our course "contract."


Spring 2 2021 - Dr. Greg Thomas (Feb - May)
Summer 2021 - Dr. George Van Otten (May - Jul)

Course Overview

GEOG 571 is a course offered in the Geospatial Intelligence Certificates, the Geospatial Intelligence Option in the Master of Professional Studies in Homeland Security, and the Master of Geographic Information Systems programs that are available exclusively through Penn State's World Campus. It is also one of the optional courses that leads to Penn State's Postbaccalaureate Certificate in GIS. The course consists of projects, associated readings, and exams.

As participants in a graduate-level course, students enrolled in Geography 571 should expect the grading of assignments to be based upon the following:

  1. demonstrated mastery of the subject matter;
  2. clarity of thought;
  3. reliance on factual information in defense of, or against, a given point of view;
  4. logic; and
  5. effective integration of course materials into discussions, critiques, and answers to questions.

What will be expected of you?

Like any upper-level course, you will be challenged to move beyond the knowledge and skills that you bring to the class. You can expect to be busy; a rough estimate is that you should allow 12-15 hours per week for class assignments. Included in the 12-15 hours each week is time to complete projects and related activities. You'll be glad to know that you don't need to show up for class at a certain time! All you need to do is complete assignments before the published deadline at the end of each week.

We have worked hard to make this the most effective and convenient educational experience possible. How much and how well you learn is ultimately up to you. You will succeed if you are diligent about keeping up with the class schedule and if you take advantage of opportunities to communicate with me, as well as with your fellow students.

Course Objectives

GEOG 571: The successful student will be able to demonstrate comprehension of the following course materials by logically applying the information learned to the analyses of civil security problems and by offering lucid presentations and solutions based on clearly reasoned syntheses:

  1. Cultural geography, civil security, and globalization
  2. The environmental mandate (resources, climate, etc.) and civil security
  3. Culture, cultural wars, and civil security
  4. American culture, educational challenges, changing demographics, and economic realities
  5. Civil security and the cultural geography of the U.S./Mexico Border Region
  6. Cultural/spatial manifestations of international terrorism
  7. Spatial characteristics of organized crime, drugs, and the stability of the world order
  8. Future challenges relative to civil security

Course Expectations

Successful participants will:

  1. be prepared to offer critical appraisals of all assigned reading materials;
  2. complete and turn in all assignments on time;
  3. actively and respectfully participate in discussions (online or in some other formats);
  4. complete a research paper on an approved topic;
  5. complete a final examination that will consist of essay questions; and
  6. submit written work (other than the final examination) that is properly documented in accordance with the APA Quick Citation Guide.

Required Course Materials

Please read these materials carefully. They have been selected to expose you to a broad spectrum of works on topics that relate to geography, intelligence, and civil security. 


Kaplan, Robert, The Revenge of Geography, Random House, New York (2012).
(ISBN - 9780812982220)
(A limited number of copies of this textbook will also be available through the Penn State Libraries E-Book program. Penn State login required.)

Kilcullen, David, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York (2011).
(ISBN - 9780199754090)
(This textbook will also be available through the Penn State Libraries E-Book program. Penn State login required.)

Chua, Amy, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations, Penguin Books, (2019).
(ISBN - 9780399562877)

Rader, Benjamin G. (2006) American Ways: A History of American Culture 1865-Present; Vol. II (sec. ed.), Wadsworth Press, Canada, pp. 189-245.
Registered students can access an electronic copy of the reading in Canvas.

Hartman, Andrew, (2015) A History of the Culture Wars: A War for the Soul of America, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, pp. 23-27 and 102-170.
Registered students can access an electronic copy of the reading in Canvas.

Rodriguez, Gregory (2008). Mongrels, Bastard, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican immigration and the future of race in America, Vintage Books, pp. 1-122.
Penn State students can access an electronic copy of the book through the Penn State libraries. Penn State login required.

Spicer, Edward, H. (1962). Cycles of Conquest: The Impact of Spain, Mexico, and the United States on the Indians of the Southwest, 1533-1960(link is external), University of Arizona Press, pp. 279- 360.
Penn State students can access an electronic copy of the book through the Penn State libraries. Penn State login required.


Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, National Intelligence Council, (2012).

There are a number of on-line articles and studies throughout the couse that are required reading materials.  The titles and links for these materials are clearly marked in each lesson.

Van Otten, George, Culture Matters, Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, (January-March, 2005).  If you cannot access the article via the link — use your browser to search for "Culture Matters"  MIPB 2005 with your prefered search engine. The results should bring up a PDF file in the Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin. The article begins on page 30.

Van Otten, George, Why Geography Should Matter Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin, (2012). You will find this article in the lesson one text.

Using the Library

Just like on-campus students, as a Penn State student you have a wealth of library resources available to you!

As a registered user of Penn State Libraries, you can...

  • search for journal articles (many are even immediately available in full-text);
  • request articles that aren't available in full-text and have them delivered electronically;
  • borrow books and other materials and have them delivered to your doorstep;
  • access materials that your instructor has put on Electronic Reserve;
  • talk to reference librarians in real time using chat, phone, and e-mail;
  • ...and much more!

To register with the Libraries, and to learn more about their services, see

Assignments and Grading

Students earn grades that reflect the extent to which they achieve the learning objectives listed above. Opportunities to demonstrate learning include the following, and grades will be based on percentages assigned to each of several components of the course as follows:

  • Class Participation: (10 points)

    Participation is evaluated based on participation in online discussion forums and e-mail interactions.
  • Written Assignments:  (65 points)
    • Writings: (45 points)

      It is important to remember that this is a graduate-level class. Therefore, those enrolled in the class will be graded on clarity of presentation, logic, reliance on accurate information and facts, integration of reading materials (including online lectures) into written presentations and discussions, and attention to detail. Please remember that your grades will not be based upon the position you take relative to given issues, but instead will rest upon the accuracy and effectiveness of your written presentations. Simply arguing that you "feel" a certain way about something is not a reasonable defense of your position.
      • Five Discussion Forums each worth 5 points (25 points).
      • Two Discussion Forums each worth 10 points. (20 points).
    • Research Paper: (20 points)

      The successful completion of a well-written and well-documented research paper is required in order to pass this course. The research papers should be double-spaced and documented in keeping with the APA citation guideline, and should not exceed fifteen pages in length. By the end of the second week, each student will submit to me the topic about which she or he will write. Papers are due at the end of the ninth week of the semester. Students may choose to write on any of the following topics:
      • The Geospatial Implications of Illegal Immigration in the United States
      • Spatial Manifestations of Water Resources and Civil Security
      • The Spatial Manifestations and Implications Relative to Current Demographic Shifts and Trends
      • Geopolitical Manifestations of Cultural Fault Lines on the World Order
      • The Impacts of Race and Ethnicity on Twenty-first Century American Culture
      • World Geopolitical Influences of Radical Islam on the World Order
      • Changing Gender Roles and the Evolution of American Culture 
      • Geopolitics and Environmental Mandates
      • The Geopolitical Implications of Building a Wall Between the USA and Mexico
      • Geopolitical Manifestations of Rogue States (North Korea and Iran)
      • The Impacts of Globalization on the Quick and the Slow
      • The Geospatial Implications of Modern Technologies Relative to Civil Security
      • Geospatial Characteristics and Implications of Cultural Conflicts and Tensions in the United States
      • Global Geospatial Characteristics and Implications of Cultural Conflicts and Tension
    • Please go to the Penn State University Libraries APA Quick Citation Guide to make sure you are using the proper citations.
  • Final Examination: (25 points)
    • Due during the last week of class

Make-up Exam Policy

Make-up exams will only be granted through the approval of the course instructor for legitimate and excused absences. Prior notification and approval for a make-up exam must be obtained by the student at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled exam. Special circumstances will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Letter grades will be based on the following percentages:

Letter Grade and Corresponding Points
Letter Grade Points
A 90 - 100 points
A- 87.5-89.9 points
B+ 85-87.4 points
B 80-84.9 points
B- 77.5-79.9 points
C+ 75-77.4 points
C 70-74.9 points
D 60-69.9 points
F <60 points
X Unsatisfactory (student did not participate)

Percentages refer to the proportion of all possible points earned by the student.

GEOG 571 Course Schedule

image Printable Schedule

Course length: 10 weeks
Below, you will find a brief summary of the lesson tasks for this course and the associated time frames. Assignment information will be located on each lesson's checklist - so you will need to check there for the full set of details and deliverables. Sometimes, the details for each lesson can change, and it's possible that the syllabus may not be updated as quickly as the lesson checklists, so always check specific lesson checklists for the latest details. This course is 10 weeks in length, with an orientation week preceding the official start of the course.

Please check the course calendar in Canvas for specific due dates.

Date: Week 0
  • Complete the steps outlined in our site orientation to familiarize yourself with the course organization and features.
  • Click on the Orientation link to begin the orientation.
  • I strongly encourage you to read the materials in lesson 0.  This lesson is not graded, but if you do not already have a strong background in geography, reading the materials in Lesson 0, will make it easier for you to understand the materials covered in subsequent lessons. 
Possible Points: 0

Lesson 1: Introduction
Date: Week 1
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Begin reading Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography. 
  • After you have compled reading all the materials assigned for lesson one; take the Lesson 1 quiz.
  • Lesson 1 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 1 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 2 module.
  • Lesson 1 Discussion Forum (5 points).
  • NOTE: If you do not have a strong background in geography/cultural geography, please read the introductory materials listed under the Lesson 0: A Geography Primer portion of the menu.
Possible Points: 5

Lesson 2: The Environmental Mandate
Date: Week 2
  • Read the online lecture notes and the other on-line articles as indicated in the lesson.
  • Continue reading Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography.
  • Lesson 2 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 2 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 3 module.
  • Lesson 2 Discussion Forum (5 points).
  • Submit your Research Paper Topic in the Research Paper Idea Dropbox.
Possible Points: 5

Lesson 3: Cultures in Conflict
Date: Weeks 3-4
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Read Van Otten, "Culture Matters."
  • Read the first half of Amy Chua, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (pp.1-116)
  • Lesson 3 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 3 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 4 module.
  • Lesson 3 Discussion Forum (10 points).
Possible Points: 10

Lesson 4: American Cultures
Date: Week 5
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Read last half of Amy Chua, Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (pp. 117-212)
  • Lesson 4 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 4 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 5 module.
  • Lesson 4 Discussion Forum (5 points)
  • Submit an outline of your research paper along with an annotated bibliography (5 points).
Possible Points: 10

Lesson 5:
Civil Security and the U.S./Mexico Border Region
Date: Weeks 6-7
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Read Van Otten, "Illegal Immigration and Smuggling on the Tohono O’odham Reservation of Arizona: Opportunities for Applied Intelligence Training."
  • Lesson 5 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 5 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 6 module.
  • Lesson 5 Discussion Forum (10 points).
Possible Points: 10

Lesson 6:
International Terrorism
Date: Week 8
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Read Kilcullen, David, The Accidental Guerrilla.
  • Lesson 6 Quiz does not count toward your final grade, but you must score 100% on the quiz before you can submit your discussion forum post. Completing the Lesson 6 Quiz will also unlock the Lesson 7 module.
  • Lesson 6 Discussion Forum (5 points).
Possible Points: 5

Lesson 7:
Organized Crime and Civil Security
Date: Week 9
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Lesson 7 Discussion Forum (5 points).
  • Submit your Research Paper (15 points) in the Research Paper drop box in Canvas. See course calendar for the specific due date. 
Possible Points: 20

Lesson 8: Conclusions and Final Exam
Date: Week 10
  • Read the online lecture notes.
  • Submit your open-book final exam paper no later than 1800 PST on the Monday following release of the exam to you.
Possible Points: 25

Course Policies

Citation and Reference Style

Use the resources found at to guide you in citing references.

Technical Requirements

For this course, we recommend the minimum technical requirements outlined on the World Campus Technical Requirements page, including the requirements listed for same-time, synchronous communications. If you need technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Internet Connection

Access to a reliable Internet connection is required for this course. A problem with your Internet access may not be used as an excuse for late, missing, or incomplete coursework. If you experience problems with your Internet connection while working on this course, it is your responsibility to find an alternative Internet access point, such as a public library or Wi-Fi ® hotspot.

Mixed Content

This site is considered a secure web site which means that your connection is encrypted.  We do however link to content that isn't necessarily encrypted.  This is called mixed content.  By default, mixed content is blocked in Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome.  This may result in a blank page or a message saying that only secure content is displayed.  Follow the directions on our Technical Requirements page to view the mixed content.


This course must be viewed using the latest version of Firefox, Safari, Chrome, or Edge. Internet Explorer is not supported. If you use any other browser, or if you are not using the latest version of your browser, some pages containing equations will not render properly. In addition, javascript must be enabled for equations to render properly. If you have any issues with equations not rendering properly, please update your browser to the latest version or try using a different browser. If you need additional technical assistance at any point during the course, please contact the HelpDesk (for World Campus students) or the IT Service Desk (for students at all other campus locations).

Penn State E-mail Accounts

All official communications from Penn State are sent to students' Penn State e-mail accounts. Be sure to check your Penn State account regularly, or forward your Penn State e-mail to your preferred e-mail account, so you don't miss any important information.

Academic Integrity

This course follows Penn State's College of Earth and Mineral Sciences Academic Integrity Guidelines for Undergraduates. Penn State defines academic integrity as "the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner." Academic integrity includes "a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception." In particular, the University defines plagiarism as "the fabrication of information and citations; submitting others' work from professional journals, books, articles, and papers; submission of other students' papers, lab results or project reports and representing the work as one's own." Penalties for violations of academic integrity may include course failure. To learn more, see Penn State's Academic Integrity Training

Course Copyright

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor’s express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD 40, the University Policy Recording of Classroom Activities and Note Taking Services addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University’s Code of Conduct, and/or liable under Federal and State laws.

For example, uploading completed labs, homework, or other assignments to any study site constitutes a violation of this policy.

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Office for Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for Campus Disability Coordinators at every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Office for Student Disability Resources website

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled. You will participate in an intake interview and provide documentation. See documentation guidelines at Applying for Services from Student Disability Resources. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus’s disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Change in Normal Campus Operations

In case of weather-related delays or other emergency camps disruptions or closures at the University, this online course will proceed as planned. Your instructor will inform you if there are any extenuating circumstances regarding content or activity due dates in the course due to these delays or closures. If you are affected by a weather-related emergency, please contact your instructor at the earliest possible time to make special arrangements.

Reporting Educational Equity Concerns

Penn State takes great pride to foster a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated (Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance) and can be reported through Educational Equity via Report Bias.

Counseling and Psychological Services

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional wellbeing.  The university offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings.  These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients’ cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.  Services include the following:

Counseling and Psychological Services at University Park  (CAPS): 814-863-0395
Counseling Services at Commonwealth Campuses
Penn State Crisis Line (24 hours/7 days/week): 877-229-6400
Crisis Text Line (24 hours/7 days/week): Text LIONS to 741741

Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Connect Online with Caution

Penn State is committed to educational access for all. Our students come from all walks of life and have diverse life experiences. As with any other online community, the lack of physical interaction in an online classroom can create a false sense of anonymity and security. While one can make new friends online, digital relationships can also be misleading. Good judgment and decision making are critical when choosing to disclose personal information to others whom you do not know.

Deferred Grades

If you are prevented from completing this course within the prescribed amount of time for reasons that are beyond your control, it is possible to have the grade deferred with the concurrence of the instructor, following Penn State Deferred Grade Policy 48-40. To seek a deferred grade, you must submit a written request (by e-mail or U.S. post) to the instructor describing the reason(s) for the request. Non-emergency permission for filing a deferred grade must be requested before the beginning of the final examination period.  It is up to the instructor to determine whether or not you will be permitted to receive a deferred grade. If permission is granted, you will work with the instructor to establish a communication plan and a clear schedule for completion within policy.  If for any reason, the coursework for the deferred grade is not complete by the assigned time, a grade of "F" will be automatically entered on your transcript.


This course will be conducted entirely online. There will be no set class meeting times, but you will be required to complete weekly assignments with specific due dates. Many of the assignments are open for multiple days, so it is your responsibility to complete the work early if you plan to travel or participate in national holidays, religious observances or University approved activities.

If you need to request an exception due to a personal or medical emergency, contact the instructor directly as soon as you are able. Such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Diversity, Inclusion, and Respect

Penn State is “committed to creating an educational environment which is free from intolerance directed toward individuals or groups and strives to create and maintain an environment that fosters respect for others” as stated in Policy AD29 Statement on Intolerance. All members of this class are expected to contribute to a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment and to interact with civility.

For additional information, see:

Mandated Reporting Statement

Penn State’s policies require me, as a faculty member, to share information about incidents of sex-based discrimination and harassment (discrimination, harassment, sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and retaliation) with Penn State’s Title IX coordinator or deputy coordinators, regardless of whether the incidents are stated to me in person or shared by students as part of their coursework. For more information regarding the University's policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct, please visit Penn State's Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention & Response website.

Additionally, I am required to make a report on any reasonable suspicion of child abuse in accordance with the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law.


Please note that the specifics of this Course Syllabus can be changed at any time, and you will be responsible for abiding by any such changes. All changes will be communicated with you via e-mail, course announcement and/or course discussion forum.